Push Past the Comfort Zone and Transform


Siri Rishi Kaur guides practitioners at New Moon Lab at Mandala Yoga in Amagansett. Michael Heller photos

By Emily J. Weitz

Every 28 days, we get a new chance. The new moon is ripe with potential and creative energy, a time when longtime Kundalini teacher Siri Rishi Kaur gathers people together to begin again.

It’s not just Kundalini that Siri Rishi brings to her students, though that would be enough. Kundalini yoga is markedly different from any other yoga practice, with a strong focus on breath and energy work, and rarely a downward dog. In a Kundalini class, practitioners are challenged to push past the point of discomfort to break through to new layers on the other side.

The author practices yoga beneath the glow of the moon.

“You have to sit with something long enough to transform,” explained Siri Rishi. “If you’re holding your leg up and it starts shaking, that’s okay. Through that turbulence, we make a transformation. If you’re doing a kriya and you want to stop, but you don’t stop, then all of a sudden you create a new pattern in your mind.”

Every posture in Kundalini is held for three minutes. This might mean a breathing exercise that keeps going past the doubt, past the cynicism, and into a state of transcendence.

“The most important aspect of being on the spiritual path may be to just keep moving,” said Pema Chodron, Buddhist nun and teacher whose spiritual texts include “When Things Fall Apart.” This can be felt in Kundalini, when all one wants to do is stop, but instead, she keeps going. Even the gong meditation at the end, when the practitioner is in a state of relaxation and support, brings the mind deeper and deeper past many points of resistance.

Siri Rishi holds true to the teachings of Kundalini. Eighty-eight-year-old Yogi Bhajan, who has been a master of Kundalini yoga since he was 16, says that the kriyas must not be changed. Kriya refers to the series of breaths and postures that lead to a certain goal.

“Part of the way we are taught to teach Kundalini is by keeping it clean and orthodox,” she said. “Yogi Bhajan’s instructions are that we must not change the kriyas. You can do whatever you want first. So I am not muddying the space and mucking up the waters.”

When she gathered participants together to honor the new moon recently, Siri Rishi kicked things off with a half hour of “dropping in.” Sitting in a circle around a beautiful orchid and a smattering of candles, participants set their intentions for the next 28 days, using strong affirmations like “I am creating.” Then she asked us to do something quite disarming. She told us to stare into the eyes of someone across the circle.

“Eyes are the seat of the soul,” said Siri Rishi, “and when you’re looking into the eyes of another, you can go so deep. It helps people break through veneers.”

It goes back to the principle of pushing past the point of discomfort. Humans glance at one another all the time, but holding a gaze is intimate and rare. This practice forces you to stay, without knowing anything about someone’s thoughts, to just be present with their gaze.

“What I like about eye gazing is you can’t lie,” said Siri Rishi. “You can’t shut down. You automatically look into the heart and open. It helps people become vulnerable and courageous at the same time.”

She wanted the people gathered to feel this way, to be able to open up to one another about their deepest hopes for the next 28 days, but also to be strong and active in the pursuit of those goals.

“Setting intentions is about having the voice to say what you desire,” said Siri Rishi. “That takes courage and it exposes you to people. So I do the eye gazing to set up a safe space. I do it so they can access their depths. Dropping in with eye gazing works quickly and authentically and it becomes an authentic space.”

The phases of the moon have a deep significance in Kundalini Yoga, as do solstices and equinoxes.

“As above, so below,” said Siri Rishi. “These shifts are happening in the universe, and they’re happening inside us.”

So the new moon is a time of conception, of beginning. As the moon grows, so do these ideas. The full moon is when everything is at its fullest, and the waning moon is a time of gratitude.

“I live in a crazy metropolitan jungle,” said Siri Rishi. “But my meter is to listen to the moon, to align with the solstice. They keep me aligned with nature. I follow what I can, and the moon is always there.”

How to Honor the Phases of the Moon, Kundalini Style

The gift of the moon is that it’s always changing, and always repeating. Tap into the rhythm with these bright guides.

1) New Moon Labs with Siri Rishi at Mandala Yoga in Amagansett on the Friday of the New Moon each month. Celebrate waxing and waning moons with Siri Rishi Kaur at Wolffer Estate Vineyards. siririshi.com

2) Jen Frasher honors the new moons at BYoga in Montauk, and then offers full moon gong sound healing at JBYoga in East Hampton. jenfrasher.com

3) Megan Chaskey is a longtime Kundalini teacher and healer and is available by appointment at meganchaskey.com

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